Big Sean x Ketchums x HipHopDX: Detroit State of Mind

12 Apr

I’ve interviewed Big Sean various times for Metro Times, Cultural Vibe (where we were photographed above), and others. Sadly, his interviews have almost always consisted of the same questions ever since then, and that was years ago. “What do you think of Drake stealing your style?” “What is it like to work with Kanye West?” “Talk about hip-hop’s affect on fashion.” I hope that every Big Sean interview is a big difference, and I walk away disappointed every time.

So when I got another chance to interview Sean for HipHopDX, one of the top hip-hop publications, I decided to speak to him about something he really knows: Detroit. Based on his hometown allegiance, our rapport and him being an open book in general, I’m really happy with how this interview turned out. Hopefully, new readers feel the same way.

CLICK HERE to read “Big Sean: Detroit State of Mind.”

Advertisement

A Challenge: This Is My Week!

16 Jan

Every December and January, people motivate themselves by saying, “This is my year!” The objective is to make the next 12 months be the gateway to achieving lifelong goals: losing weight, making more money, and more.

But why wait that long? Often, this perspective breeds procrastination, and lacks the planning for immediate results.

I issued a challenge to myself last night: go as hard as I can every day this week. I’ve set lofty goals for myself this year just like anyone else, and the only way I’m going to achieve them is if I make every moment count along the way.

So instead of saying, “This is my year,” starting today, I’ll be declaring something different: “This is my week.” Or even better, “This is my day.” I’m looking to develop the urgency to consistently plant seeds every day, and to hone the patience to watch them grow.

The Sartorialist x Intel: “A Visual Life”

10 Jan

I frequent The Sartorialist often, and watching this video makes me even more of a fan. This short documentary that Intel put together sees him sharing his opinions on fashion from past to present, along with catching the incredible photographer in action on the streets of NYC. I can actually see myself watching this on a daily or weekly basis, because it’s great to see a fellow Midwest native (he’s from Indiana and attended Indiana University) doing what he loves on a full-time basis. One of the most important quotes here is what he says below, about starting from the ground up.

My lack of knowledge in the beginning really helped, and made me refined what little I knew to make it work. If you ask any other person that does a creative thing, they probably go to school and learn all these different things. And as they get better, it just narrows and narrows. You could ask most chefs: they would need five ingredients, one pan, and a stick of butter, and they’ll make the best meal you’ve ever had. I think that’s where most photographers would like to get to. Not to have all that other stuff, but to be able to create the most beautiful image they can in the most simple way that they can.

Many people won’t pursue what they want to do because they’re intimidated by how much they don’t know. But when you focus on what you’re good at and grow from there, you’re in a better position to win. That’s the approach that I’m taking from my newfound career as an artist manager; I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’ve got my own strengths to build off of as well. And once I’m able to build from my strengths and fill in the gaps, I’ll be undeniable.

How NOT To Get Coverage On A Blog or Web Site Part 2: Twitter/Facebook Spamming

6 Jan

Finally! Something I can spam rappers with!

It’s amazing a post like this is even necessary in 2011, but apparently, it’s still a problem.

If I had a dollar for every time I got a tweet or Facebook notification from an artist with no explanation, I’d be counting Oprah stacks. Many artists dig around Twitter to hit the go-to journalists, bloggers, DJs or tastemakers with links to their music, a vague “Check it out!” and nothing else. On Facebook, there are even more options: they’ll tag you in a flyer photo, sign your wall, leave an irrelevant comment on a status you have. All promotion is good promotion, right?

Well here’s a hint: IT DOESN’T WORK!

Most writers/bloggers decide what to cover or listen to based on this list: buzz/popularity, recommendation from people they trust, a big name feature, or a novel/unique story idea.

When you have none of those things, as far as I’m concerned, the best thing you can do is show professionalism. Introduce yourself, network and build a relationship with the person you want help from. Social networking sites, especially Twitter, make this incredibly easy. Chime in on topics they’re talking about, leave comments on their blogs, and make a real connection. Show that you understand and respect what they do, and maybe they’ll do the same for you.

That way, you’re more likely to get not only a post at the time, but posts in the future as well. Think about how you’d feel if someone you’ve never met asked for help in something you do for a living, compared to how you’d react if a friend of yours asked for help.

Otherwise, nothing separates you from the millions of other artists sending us links every day. And if you don’t stick out, there’s no reason I should care about you.

So from now on, every time a rapper sends me a link with no explanation? I’m going to reply with this link, with no explanation at all.

HipHopDX Producer’s Corner Interview With Andrew Dawson

5 Jan

A few days after Christmas, I knocked out one of the best interviews I’ve had in a while. For my monthly Producer’s Corner column on HipHopDX, I interviewed Andrew Dawson. Dawson has engineered, co-produced, and/or mixed every Kanye West album, along with other heaters like Common’s Be and Finding Forever, Rick Ross’ Teflon Don, and more. Any of my readers know that my interviews are heavy on the allegorical material, and Dawson dropped some gems about instructing Elton John to re-sing a bad vocal take, locking himself in the studio with The Game for a month, and why to never turn Aretha Franklin’s microphone up in the studio. A clip of the article below:

DX: As a fan of different musicians, I can imagine it’d be like a playground to work with so much stuff at once (for Kanye West projects). How fun is it to put that stuff together?

Andrew Dawson: It’s really cool. That’s the creative and technical part, is where you can go, “This will work here, this won’t work there.” You’ve also got to hear it in your head ahead of time and then try it, so there’s some trial and error, but it’s fun to take all the pieces to gel it into something that makes sense from start to finish. Take the best of what each person has to offer, and you can’t lose. It’s like Jimi Hendrix playing guitar, John Bonham on the drums. It’s like putting together your own all-star team, featuring the talents of each person.

If 2011 is going to bring in interviews like this, it’ll be a great next 12 months. For the rest of the piece, CLICK HERE.

Black Milk Producer’s Corner Interview For HipHopDX – Sept. 2010

3 Jan


Photo via BlackMilk.biz

A lot of web sites are dropping their lists of the best albums of the year. But here at Speech Is My Hammer, I’m going to scour through my archives to recount my best interviews or stories throughout 2010. The first one I’m posting today is my HipHopDX Producer’s Corner interview with Black Milk, in which the Detroit native breaks down the construction of his masterpiece Album of the Year. One of my favorite parts of the story was the creative process behind “Distortion.”

Black Milk: I wrote that song to a completely different track, but I end up coming with this drum beat and calling up Ryan [Gimpert], the guitarist for Will Sessions, to come to the studio and just play over this drum beat until I heard something I wanted to use. I just made the drum beat, looped it up, hit record on ProTools and he just started playing. I came back the next day to listen, and I found a four-bar part that I thought was that magic moment. I looped it up, and when I listened to the track, it had a dark, eerie vibe to it. I started spitting those two verses that I wrote to another beat to that particular track, and it fit way more. Doing that style of song, I knew I had to tap into a different kind of energy. I knew I had to make my voice a certain way,  and project a certain way vocally to make that emotion come across.

I think Melanie Rutherford was the glue to all that shit, because the way she sung on it, you can feel it even more. Especially at the end, when she starts vibing out and I put the distortion on her voice. Ryan was having a soundcheck with his guitar to get it tuned right, and I took that and put it at the end; it sounded crazy to me, he didn’t even play it like that on purpose. I thought the shit was dope, I put a little effect on it, and that also felt like part of the song to me, how the guitar was screaming out.

For the rest of the interview, CLICK HERE.

Five Reasons that Moleskine Notebooks > Cell Phones

26 Dec

As a teenager, I used to always clown my father for carrying around a black book. While I was always excited to head to RadioShack every couple years to cop a new pocket organizer or Palm Pilot, pops never left home without his black leather address book. But as with most things I misunderstood or disagreed with when I was younger, I now see that William E. Ketchum, Jr. had a point.

Any smartphone disciple can attest to the usefulness of his/her device’s notepad application. I’ve used it to draft business emails, take down interview questions, and more. But the homie Alvin Blanco of Slang Rap Democracy constantly raves about Moleskine notebooks, and Jay Electronica wrote a song entitled “Dear Moleskine.” So I figured I’d give one a shot. So far, it’s been paying off beautifully. After the jump, see five reasons why using a Moleskine notepad is better than using your cell phone.

Continue reading

BLAT! Pack – BLAT! Friday (11-26-10)

26 Nov

In celebration of everyone’s favorite day after a holiday, Black Friday, we here at BLAT! Pack decided to give our fans a 5-track teaser of the upcoming, untitled full length BLAT! Pack album…or as I code named it for the time being The BLAT! Album.

Tracklist:

1. FowL – Zero to Hero (prod. by Hir-O)

2. JAE, CapitalSS, and FowL – Hater’s Ball (prod. by Dramasetters Productions)

3. CapitalSS – Holy Shit (prod. by Preme)

4. FowL and Chell – More to Life (prod. by Hir-O)

5. Scholar G, Fowl, Capital SS, and JYoung The General – Hood Phenomenon (prod. by StewRAT)

Download BLAT! Friday here

Becoming Undeniable.

31 Aug

One of my true role models in the blogging game, Marcus Troy (above), published a post earlier that really spoke to me. The post was called “Become Undeniable.” An excerpt:

Concentrate, focus and invest your time and energy to becoming undeniable, everything else will fall into place. If you work on being the best at what you do, it will be very hard for anyone to deny you anything. If you become the best candidate for a given position, how can anyone deny you?

…Too many times we just half ass things and scream foul when things don’t go our way. When you are undeniable and the people you perceive to have power decide not to give you that chance, then you can chalk it up to hate. Until then I suggest that you work on becoming undeniable.

Read the rest of the post HERE. For those not familiar, Troy has made himself undeniable in his craft. As one of the premier bloggers and tastemakers in the fashion industry, his resume speaks for itself. His posts are consistently dope. Since his posts are dope, readers trust him. And since readers trust him, companies find his opinion valuable, and they prove his value by consulting him for their products, collaborating with him on other products, and inviting him out to their events all around the world. Though I haven’t spoken to him in detail about this (which I need to, lol), I’m sure he’d say that it all started by focusing on his blog and his networking.

I gave an artist I work with, FowL (@soFowL), the same speech. He was tweeting about how certain artists and fans don’t give him the support and respect he feels he deserves. I hit him up and told him to not be upset when people don’t give him the attention he wants; instead, be so good and make moves so serious that would-be sleepers don’t have a choice but to pay attention. A month or so later, he wins a battle in Detroit that was judged by Eminem (pictured above), and he gets praise from the state’s most respected emcees, and garners coverage from newspapers, magazines and web sites from around the world. He’s still got a long career ahead of him, but this battle was a big step in making him undeniable. It’s tough to deny someone’s ability when he defeats some of the country’s most capable opponents on a national stage judged by the three of the most successful people in that field.

Now, it’s time for me to do the same. I’ve been trying to make myself undeniable for the better part of past decade, and to a certain extent, I have. I’ve written stories that people told me have changed their lives. I’ve landed articles in some of the most respected publications in urban music. I’ve collaborated with superstar artists and producers, and I’ve met and/or built relationships with other artists that inspire me on a regular basis. I’ve spoken to college classes about what I do. I’ve helped mentor young journalists, and see them develop into writers with work that can put me to shame.

But there’s still a lot more work to be done.

XXL, HipHopDX, and URB have all been amazing opportunities for me, but I want to get my work in other magazines I read, like GQ, COMPLEX and others. I want to be like @KelleyLCarter, whose name alone sparks interest amongst every major music publication in the industry. I’m already one of the undeniable voices for Michigan’s hip-hop scene, but I want to build that reputation even more. I co-manage a collective of artists (@BLATpack),  and I want to get myself to the point of role models/mentors like @HexMurda and @Six_Two, where my artists’ success speaks to my abilities and my hustle. I want to make

And furthermore? I want to drive something crispy, and lay my head in a home that’s even crispier. I want to be able to buy things without having to look at how much they cost. I want to get deals like Eskay of NahRight, who got pegged by Nokia to endorse their line of laptop computers; or Marcus Troy, whose opinion is so valued that he’s able to become a creative part of the products that he has enjoyed for so long. I want to be like LeBron James, where even my bad decisions end up raising millions of dollars for people in need.

How will I do these things? By becoming undeniable.

Creating deadlines. Meeting deadlines. Utilizing every damn one of my contact entries in my BLAT!berry. Milking every possible creative idea from my mind, and making them a reality with my talents, my network, and my ambition. Get follow-through like Ray Allen’s jump shot. Create a viable, digestible brand for every one of my artists. Knock out a certain amount of album reviews and feature interviews every week, no matter what. Three album or mixtape reviews, and one feature interview – whether it’s for another publication, or for this here web site Speech Is My Hammer. Wake up every morning by 8AM, no matter how late I’m up working. Leaving the crib in a button-up shirt, tie, slacks and suit on a daily basis; if I’m not at work already, I better be on my way to work, or be dressed for the occasion if duty calls.

Let’s get it.

Success + Challenges = Progress.

18 Jun

Throughout my professional career, success and challenges have been equally important to me. Challenges give me something to strive toward, but success lets me know that I’m doing something right. Matter of fact, I think that’s my personal new definition of “progress”: success + challenge. It’s something I’ve come up with through my incredible group of colleagues: Kelley L. Carter, Marcus Troy, Meka Udoh, Marcel Friday, Arasia Graham, and others have found a way to get both of these, and it’s how I can tell they’re moving forward.

Less than two hours ago, I interviewed one of my idols, Pharrell Williams, as a part of N.E.R.D. for HipHopDX. About minutes ago, I received an email asking me to write my fourth article for AOL Black Voices’ new site, theBVX.com, about technology – a field I’ve never covered professionally before now. And I’m typing on my Blackberry as we speak, half an hour away from counseling/mentoring juvenile delinquents to help them change their lives. And I’m co-A&Ring my second project with one of the most respected brands in street music.

Success.

But I can still become a better manager for my artists, JYoung The General and p2dahi. My editor for theBVX.com is pushing me to work on innovative ideas instead of normal humdrum tech stories. My dude Meka is speaking on blogging panels and getting featured in The Source magazine (HE’S getting interviewed, not the other way around), he has a column on XXL’s web site, AND he’s DJing. Marcus Troy is a true tastemaker, covering events and what he loves while traveling around the world. And Kelley Carter is freelancing her ASS off right now for goto publications. I want to do everything these cats are doing.

Challenge.

Thanks to those who have helped or supported my succeess and even more thanks to those who keep pushing me. I won’t let you down.

-William